Category Archives: Library stuff

Following up the socially conscious library future

I probably shouldn’t wade in because it’s not my fight…but I’m going to anyway.

I published Go for the e-book commentary, stay for the socially conscious library future over at Diligent Room. It started with Matt’s discussion post about e-books in libraries with Connor Tomas O’Brien. Connor’s comments in A very quiet battle: librarians, publishers, and the Pirate BayThe public library, in other words, is nowhere near obsolete. In some cases, it’s more important than ever” prompted Matt to ask him “What do you think a public library should be doing in 2013?” Connor offers the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne as an example. It looks like an amazing space with lots of exciting events. Great for people who live in the city. Which was the theme of Matt’s next comments about rural libraries and the concerns he has around equity of service for people who choose to live there.

I storifyed the resulting Twitter discussion. I left out a few tweets that were related to the original question about ebooks as they broke the flow of the main discussion. I refrained from adding too much editorial comment as I believed that the tweets would speak for themselves.  Matt thought up a way that author visits could expand into Melbourne suburbs while still delivering foot traffic into the Centre.

Connor has responded.

His response made me furious. It’s the same attitude that I saw in the ALIA Futures discussion paper (1 May 2013) – omission of any comments regarding their indigenous population; convergence to large urban centres – plus it’s got some weird arguments in it.  (Read Smarter than you think by Clive Thompson and in the first 50 pages it tells us that more people are writing than ever before. We’re blogging, tweeting, writing fan fiction, writing emails, commenting on Facebook status updates, RANTING  etc etc.  Not “When you’re writing in a regional area, that culture can be lacking, making it infinitely more likely that prospective writers will never open their word processor in the first place.“)  It seems to me that Connor’s piece is written with a narrow definition of who is a ‘writer’. It makes me think that he works towards the funders, not towards the community. The ALIA document at least had an excuse – their paper was “intended to engage, excite, and provoke.” I have no idea what Connor is trying to build – except maybe arguments to keep the status quo.

And all this on a day when I was pointed toward Sometimes The ‘Tough Teen’ Is Quietly Writing Stories by Matt de la Peña which has one of the best arguments for taking authors and events to under-served areas whether it be schools, suburbs, or regions. This is who I want to be working for, and with for my library future.

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Dark Night and Wonderland

I’ve been waxing lyrical here and on Diligent Room about the cool things that people are doing for their communities at their libraries.   What is really exciting me is finding out the philosophy behind why they are doing it – their community is changing and they are changing with it. Seeing the kaupapa shared has made me think of Dark Night and LATE.
Image by Dylan Horrocks

Image by Dylan Horrocks

Dark Night was “a guerrilla festival of burlesque, literary, and cinematic events that question, celebrate, and challenge sex and sexuality on page, stage, and screen” at Auckland Libraries in June.  It’s the kind of event series that I would have loved to have gone to – sassy, fun, informative, entertaining, better than an author talk (which, btw, I love.) It was an event that promised to discuss ideas and society’s attitudes to those ideas. The fact that it was a number of different events across the week – a film, a Q&A, a panel discussion, burlesque – only added to the appeal. The library-specific phrase that jumps out at me from @DrMattFinch‘s blog is this one:
The point is this: if libraries are “your space of imagination, learning, and connection”, that applies to every aspect of our culture.
FUCK YEAH. (Incidentally, Auckland Libraries, why do I have to go to Matt’s blog to find out about one of your events that happened less than six months ago? I know he was the instigator and organiser of the event, but…really? I am disappoint.)
Auckland Museum’s LATE series is a similar sort of thing “discussion on contemporary themes, with bands and DJs performing in the Museum’s galleries. ” I still think about ideas I heard during those discussions (from 2009!) In December 2009 I wrote “I most definitely feel more connected to the Museum through initiatives like the LATE programme.” (Sadly I think I’ve lost a bunch of blogs when I imported them from Posterous before it closed, otherwise I’d link to them. Auckland Museum has an archive of information about the series.) There was something very satisfying about listening to smart people talk about smart ideas, then wandering the Museum halls with friends discussing what we’d just heard.
Wonderland was an exhibition that opened during the LATE series. Featuring videos from Mika, that was the LATE that turned me from a non-using supporter of Auckland Museum to an enthusiastic user and Friend. I guess Wonderland is the particular exhibition that comes to mind because it was the first time I realised that I saw the museum as a place that could add value to my contemporary lifestyle. (Also sexy orchid stories.) Being able to use the museum in a different way changed the way that I related to the museum and made me want to support it.
Here are a couple of tweets about Dark Night.

Sure, these are from library staff, but I think they indicate that Dark Night could be as influential to the way people relate to the library as LATE was for me in the way I related to Auckland Museum. The themed, multi-media style of Dark Night appeals to me. I like to weave ideas, quotes, comments etc from different places into a coherent whole – Dark Night offers that to me. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I like its style – the more innovative I think it was.

I’ve been seeing a few tweets about a possible second Dark Night at Auckland Libraries. Since Dark Night “was partly intended as a more challenging riposte to those White Night cultural events cities run around the world…but…it’s the term White Night which has the truly dark pedigree”  it seems appropriate that the theme that seems to be emerging is Fear. I’ve taken to calling it Dark Night 2: The Fear in the hopes that once the event is named it will become real – even if it is by someone in the wrong city, on their personal blog.

Actually, come to think of that, maybe there’s somewhere in Wellington that might like to pick it up? National Library has a beautiful new space that could be used. Te Papa? Wellington City Libraries? The Dowse in partnership with Hutt City Libraries? Matt is freelancing currently. One of you should hire him to bring Dark Night to your place.

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Reflection from LIANZA13 Day 4

The last day of a conference is always interesting – how may people have gone home? How many people are still to wake up after the conference dinner fun the night before? How many people are here and mainlining coffee?

The first keynote was Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith from Waikato University. There was so much in her presentation that resonated with what I’m interested in.

  • Maori staff (often) come into organisations with their iwi and hapu identities.  For those staff, it’s a responsibility to serve the bigger community – to serve the language, serve the culture. Therefore they are often looked to as exponents of the Maori language and tikanga. This can be part of a hidden workload – service to the organisation in powhiri, karakia, waiata, poroporoake, tangihanga etc.
  • Many of our institutions try to absorb Maori into existing structures. The challenge for institutions is to engage with difference on the inside (of people), to recognise and reward (not punish) for the hidden workload.
  • For institutions that want to build Maori capacity – build a long term agenda and commitment to build transformation within. Requires leadership. There is implicit knowledge that’s at work in those environments so share the values of the organisation and the people in it. Build structures for discussion – talk about the issue, then address it if reasonable. Institutional culture change can occur within a very small unit of staff. Institutions must see this as a learning journey. Figure it out together. Needs leadership which doesn’t go into panic mode when there’s a minor crisis.
  • Don’t put the pressure on one Maori to carry the whole Maori world and the Pakeha world at the same time. Individuals are individuals.
  • The more that Maori shape our future, the more we can determine it. Our aspirations are to engage in positive ways.

This is one of her aims for her life.

  • Live a life that builds something so that other people don’t have to fight society – try and make society better.

I like it. I think Libraries can be great contributors to that idea.

Professor Smith also showed me some of the things to do/watch out for as I go into discussions with LIANZA and Te Ropu Whakahau about focusing the kaupapa of LIANZA so we can be in the future with a uniquely NZ point of view. I appreciate (and am pleased by) the attitudes of people who I have already talked to, and their willingness to engage with the question.

Also speaking on Day 4 was Nat Torkington. He’s one of my favourite speakers – always entertaining, very smart and sharp on learning and information ideas. (Plus he’s not afraid to be a bit sweary.)

  • When you see people who are doing things with tech, or their services “you don’t become like them by buying the artifacts. [there is] an ocean of possible artifacts and toys.“ What we don’t see is the pedagogy behind it which is how to understand how and why it’s being used. Laptops aren’t the answer. “The transformative power if that stuff is sweet fuck all, unless you change the thinking and attitudes of the teachers and students. Otherwise you only have a classroom with Macs in it.
  • To see something that you don’t understand and see it as a threat, that’s deadly.
  • Teaching as inquiry – Hypothesis > Evidence> Research > Action > Evidence > Reflection > Hypothesis (repeat). This is a good model for a way to embrace learning for (and about) the future. (One school used an open Google doc for staff which included – this is the thing I’m doing, this is what I’ve learned. Public sharing of the individual learning which validates learning and experimentation. Staff only had to pick one thing to work on at a time.)
  • Don’t make the mistake of doing the futuring TO something, do it WITH someone.

I haven’t been to a full LIANZA conference for a few years (small library, small staff) and this conference has convinced me more than ever of the importance of attending the full event. There are themes outside of the official conference theme which rise during the four days. There are so many people to continue building relationships with that it can’t all be done in a day or two days.

I’m finishing this reflection with something that Nat said. On the day I was so entertained by his presentation that I missed the care for learning, libraries, and librarians that permeated his words. I think this is simultaneously a challenge, and a hope for the future.

You can make your own damn future.

Open document with the notes from LIANZA13 Day 4. Please add your own notes!

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Reflection from LIANZA13 Day 3

Phew! What a day. I’ve made these notes in the 20 minutes before the Conference Dinner.

  • Presenters are really building on each other’s words. deliberately picking up the themes I’ve already written about and reinforcing them with their own take on it. Weaving together the things they’ve heard (especially the keynotes), making new meaning from it. The human/people element really came to the fore today. Generosity, reciprocity, be nice to each other.
  • Lots of change management projects taking the same process of dialogue and discussion with the teams to discover many of the same things. Still vital as it’s the people in the organisation who are in the change – helps to feel empowered to make the changes.
  • Changes in academic libraries – Experience at BOP very similar to what mine will be (hopefully) similar kaupapa for the organisation. Have got lots of ideas about how to frame the discussion at my kura, some ideas about what I could put forward as the new role for the library.
  • “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. There’s a reason the change is happening.” Good final presentation words from Will & Christine from VicUni.
  • Take control of your own learning. Embrace your failures – may not have worked for you but it might work for me!
  • Expanding on the idea of LIANZA approaching the future from a uniquely NZ context – using Te Ao Maori as a basis for tikanga, kaupapa, and kawa for the association. Had a quick chat with someone who might be able to help – great opportunity for Te Ropu Whakahau and LIANZA to collaborate. I have an idea about how to bring a Maori worldview into your organisation by approaching other people in the organisation who are curious about Maori concepts – not worrying if you can’t reach your managers. Build a movement around yourself and the people who are interested as a start. Learning te reo really important – matauranga Maori course valued by participants. build networks and kawa in your own organisation.
  • Really noticed the manaakitanga of the Claudelands events team. Quick change of the rooms – efficient, sound like they’re having a laugh while they’re doing it. Invisible and efficient wait staff, visible reception team. Thanks crews!

Open document with the notes from LIANZA13 Day 3. Please add your own notes!


Reflection from LIANZA13 Day 2

Good grief! Just had my mind blown by our final keynote for the day – Eli Neiburger. He was talking about the way his library, Ann Arbor, is diversifying the library experience for their community and citizens, and therefore diversifying the value. The activities themselves are exciting, but more than that it is the way that they are thinking about their services. (On a smaller scale, Matt is writing about the activities he’s been doing in Parkes in the Finding Library Futures series. Same philosophy – to steal a phrase from Matt – “that imaginative play is also the business of libraries.“)  This is something that I’d love to see public libraries really taking up and implementing (and them telling everyone about it.)Prior to Eli, I was pleased to see that the themes of Context, Local, and Collaboration, were a continuing thread through the presentations. Some new ones of Prototype/Test, Play are also emerging. What’s also exciting is what I’m calling next layer thinking – we’re getting beyond the objects/basic service and starting to dream and think about what could be done next. To think about value rather than fiscal return.

Actually, too many ideas whizzing around my head from Eli’s talk to really reflect on the rest of the day today. Off to the tweetup with the other twitterarti (not tweetsexuals, thanks DJ) to maybe do a bit of discussion and unpacking.

All my notes are available in this document. (If you’re at conference and have things to add, please do so!)


Reflection from LIANZA13 Day 1

I started the day with a workshop on the future of the profession based on the ALIAFutures discussion which has been going on over in the West Island. There were many interesting ideas floated by the participants in the workshop this morning. I appreciated the fact that they seemed to be very practical thoughts about the future and what we could do about it. One theme I noticed cropping up was an idea of groups at opposite ends of a given concept.

  • The haves and the have nots.
  • The digitally rich and the digitally poor.
  • The educated and the uneducated.
  • The urban and the country.
  • The global and the local.

The last one in particular was one I got very excited about. As things (education, services, entertainment) get more global (or national) there’s an opportunity for libraries to be more local. To really focus in on their communities. To in fact be the institution that offers community events for the whole community. (I also went on a bit of a rant about changing the way we think so that instead of ‘demonstrating our value’ we are ‘providing value so that others make our argument for us’. I haven’t quite got it down to a pithy <140 statement yet but I’m working on it.)

In the afternoon we were welcomed to the conference with a powhiri at Turangawaewae. I was impressed with the orientation to the powhiri process given by one of the committee members as we traveled to Ngaruawahia on the bus. It felt really special to be at Turangawaewae which is an important location (physical and symbolic) for the Waikato. We were treated to some delicious kai (thanks ringawera!) and then our first keynote, Nanaia Mahuta spoke.

These are the things that she said that resonated with me. (Paraphrased because my notetaking abilities were hampered by a dying phone battery.)

  • The seen and the unseen make up the world of knowledge.
  • Context is important. Place is important. Somewhere like this marae is timeless.
  • Notice the powerful transformative nature of knowledge.
  • Navigate through information then pause and reflect to create knowledge.

She also talked about individuals going out into the world, learning new things, then incorporating that back into their lives.

That got me thinking about the opportunities for LIANZA in the future. I’d really like to see LIANZA respond to the future from a uniquely NZ point of view which includes a Maori perspective. I’d like to see us hold our own powhiri as an expression of that. (‘Hold’ in a more holistic sense, a sort of mashup of ‘run the event, hold the line, look after everything’ sense.) I’d like to see us pay more than lip-service to the idea of biculturalism and I’d like to see libraries follow that. I’m not sure how realistic this is because it would mean a fundamental change to organisational culture which would be difficult. However, linking it back to the globalisation/localisation discussion, it’s a smart choice which preserves the uniqueness of our NZ philosophy towards information and knowledge while at the same time giving us a position on the global stage.

On a closer-to-home note, her keynote has given me some ideas about how to frame the changing position of the library (I work in) to the kura. The people who are not in the library are very focused on a library that provides access to resources which I feel is a very limited view of what the library could be in the school. It could be a place of turning information into knowledge, a still place (as Brendan described it) while at the same time still being exciting (in terms of learning) which is what I want it to be.

Obviously this all needs much more work. I hope that the next few days continue to change my perspective on libraries in New Zealand.

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The Spice Market, part 2

Rereading The Spice Market made it sound as if the benefit was all for Brendan. That the library was acting as a kind of guide to his personal epiphany. It definitely wasn’t all for his benefit. So what does the Library (staff and resources) get out of it?

There’s the tangible – we get suggestions for items that the library could/should own. Some were independent suggestions relating to curriculum. Some were from what I like to think of as the fairytale path of research – this book leads to this movie leads to this artist leads to this other movie leads to this director etc. We get a discussion on why those people or products.

Then there’s the intangible – we get insights into the way the industry works and how individuals in the industry work. (There may have also been a few rumours [REDACTED] but I couldn’t possibly comment on that.) I personally understand a little better how an artist could work. It’s certainly helped me to understand better how the students at the kura are being encouraged to work. From that it’s let me look at whether the library has changed along with the rest of the kura to accommodate that. I’m not sure it has, but talking with Brendan has let me see a potential way to change. He said that the library is a place to ‘stop’ for him. A small rest stop. I’m not quite sure how this meshes with my ideas that a library should be both “fucking awesome” and “fucking exciting” but we’ll see.

I guess the thing that feels most important to me about our conversations is that we are both working the thing we need to work while enabling the other to do the same. Which is a slightly wanky way of saying that I actually don’t know what the path is to get to the place I want the library to be but by talking to Brendan I’m getting closer to defining what that might be. And that is fucking exciting.

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The Spice Market

Currently showing in the library space is The Spice Market by Brendan (aka. Design Guy). Our shelves are green so the drawing is a dramatic statement against that background. It’s visible to everyone walking into the building as it’s positioned facing out towards the clear window/walls. (Where our display of new items is usually.)

When Brendan tentatively floated the idea that he would display the drawing in the library I was all for it. He said that The Spice Market has grown out of conversations in this place and therefore should be shown here first. He’s a regular library visitor. Sometimes he takes stuff out, sometimes he doesn’t. Mostly we talk about the stuff that he’s doing with his Art, the things that we’ve been watching or reading. [NTS: leave more comics on your desk to start conversations.] For me it’s a great example of how I want the Library (staff and resources) to work with the students.

In a weird way it feels very similar to the mentoring I’ve been doing. It’s the same process of discuss, question, research, explain, clarify, action etc. It’s not that the Library (staff and resources) are telling him how to be an artist, it’s that we’re facilitating the space he needs to work that out for himself. After that initial display conversation I tweeted “Don’t make art in isolation“, a bad reflection of the idea that art only becomes art when it is seen by someone else. @KiwiLibrarian responded “I make art while isolated in my art room, but I am not isolated in my art practice.” Yeah, I like that.

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Who’s the enemy here?

Originally published by me at The Room of Infinite Diligence; tweaked and posted on Wellingtonista. 5/9/2013

The Room of Infinite Diligence

I received an email from LIANZA last week saying that I might be interested in a event. It was being organised by a coalition of library supporters concerned about budget cuts to Wellington Libraries. So far – fantastic! A group from the community who “coordinate efforts against the steady deterioration of library services in Wellington, advocates for users and staff of public libraries and brings together groups” (who also support libraries). The teams looked like an interesting mix of people with a variety of experiences. They looked like they would be very entertaining.  Brilliant.

Then it all went horribly wrong.

The moot was “Are libraries worth saving?

I was unequivocal about my reaction on Twitter.

No. I am not interested in a debate on “Are Libraries Worth Saving?” Thanks though. #FarCough

— librarykris (@librarykris) August 27, 2013

I am ashamed to say that I didn’t send…

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